Juncker tries hard to get Georgieva on his team

Jean-Claude Juncker [European People's Party/Flickr]

Jean-Claude Juncker, expected to be approved by the European Parliament for Commission President tomorrow (15 July) is trying hard to make sure that Kristalina Georgieva, the current Bulgarian Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, gets nominated by the outgoing cabinet in Sofia for the post of Commission Vice President and EU foreign Affairs Chief, Commission sources told EURACTIV.

EU leaders will discuss the successor of the current EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, as well as of Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the next Eurogroup President at an extraordinary EU summit on 16 July. Georgieva’s name has already been mentioned as a strong candidate for the foreign affairs portfolio. Another name mentioned is that of Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.

>> Read: EU heavyweights advise Bulgaria to nominate Georgieva for Ashton’s job

However, Mogherini doesn’t have the support of several Eastern European countries, who believe that Italy has been overly friendly to Russia, especially in the context of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis.

Georgieva, a former World Bank Vice President, has gained an excellent reputation as commissioner. Asked recently by EURACTIV to reveal her plans for the future, she kept the cards close to her chest by saying that she would know when her present term expires.

>> Read: Georgieva: ‘Travelling trouble’ could reach us

Juncker has reportedly held telephone calls with Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski to make sure that Georgieva will be nominated as the next Bulgarian Commissioner. However, those have remained inconclusive. Oresharski, who is expected to represent his country ate the summit on Wednesday, has said he would not propose a commissioner on that occasion.

Diplomats say, however, that those leaders who would not present candidates on 16 July won’t be able to play the game of the top jobs.

‘Open mandate’

Juncker has reportedly told Oresharski that he should come to Brussels “with an open mandate” and make a decision, instead of telling EU leaders he has no mandate to decide.

Oresharski is expected to resign later this month. Early elections in Bulgaria are due on 5 October. Bulgaria is led by a minority government with a record-low level of support from the population (see background).

The Bulgarian press speculates that Sergei Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the senior coalition partner in the outgoing cabinet, might also be interested in becoming Commissioner, presumably with a less important portfolio as Social Affairs and Inclusion. Stanishev, who is also President of the Party of European Socialists (PES), has just been elected as MEP.

Stanishev has denied plans to seek a Commissioners’ job, saying that his current post of President of the Party of European Socialists (PES) is more important and that he would seek re-election at congress of this political family in the autumn of 2015.

However, Stanishev has previously denied that he would take his MEP post and even his party comrades appear to doubt his words.

The main opposition force GERB (Citizens for a European development of Bulgaria) of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, EPP-affiliated, strongly supports Georgieva for a second mandate.

The remaining Commissioners are not expected to be discussed on Wednesday, but Juncker is expected to tell EU leaders that he needs the nominations before the end of July, when the holiday season ends.

Bulgaria's Socialist-led government took office on 29 May 2013, ending months of political impasse but lacking broad backing. Plamen Oresharski, a nonpartisan former finance minister, is prime minister.

At the parliamentary election, held on 12 May, the party GERB (Citizens for a European development of Bulgaria) of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, EPP-affiliated, emerged as the largest party with 97 of the 240 seats.

But as GERB proved incapable of finding a coalition partner, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), which obtained 84 seats, formed a cabinet with the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS), a mainly ethnic Turkish force, which obtained 36 seats. DPS is ALDE-affiliated.

At the European elections GERB emerged as the leader with 30.4% of the vote, followed by BSP with 18.9%, DPS with 17.3% and two new forces. The party Bulgaria Without Censorship of former journalist Nikolai Barekov obtained 10.6% and the Reformist Block got 6.4%. Meanwhile Barekov joined the conservative ECR group. The Reformist Block is EPP-affiliated. 

  • 15 July: European Parliament will vote to elect Juncker as Commission President;  
  • 16 July: Special European Council to discuss nominations for other EU positions;
  • July-August: member states designate their candidates for commissioners;
  • EP Plenary session: vote of consent by the European Parliament on the new Commission as a whole - President and members including the High Representative;
  • 23-24 October: European Council;
  • 1 November: new Commission expected to take office;
  • 1 December: new President of the European Council takes office

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